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The Important Work of Havruta

By making a change in their local orthodox communities, members of Havruta are changing the entire Jewish world — one rabbi at a time

Members of Havruta in a social event (photo: Facebook)

Havruta is the largest organization for orthodox Jewish gay men in Israel. It provides a safe haven and actively works to inform and educate the religious public about LGBT issues in their communities.

In just a few years, Havruta and Bat Kol, its sister organization for orthodox lesbian women, have created huge changes in Israel’s orthodox world, initiating conversation about LGBT people where previously there was complete silence, and making it possible for orthodox LGBT people to consider maintaining both aspects of their identity. While orthodox Judaism around the world keeps a constant eye on the community in Israel, the organizations’ continuous push for visibility and discourse is slowly but firmly changing the world.

In 2011, Havruta and Bat Kol were among 11 organizations to be awarded a Human Rights Prize from the French government. The organizations were selected out of 157 organizations that applied for the award, for advancing human rights in the world.

In 2014 Havruta collaborated with the Israeli Task Force to issue an information brochure that explains the prevention of HIV infection that was handed out to frum gay Jews- since the subject is banned for discussion in the orthodox community; They came up against Rabbi Shlomo Amar who said “the phenomenon of gay people will be canceled, most of the public is disgusted by it.” They co-hosted the first ever LGBT panel in the religious university Bar Ilan. They met with rabbis to discuss and maybe let them see things differently-changing rabbis’ minds one at a time; They hung rainbow flags in their orthodox neighborhoods. and they did so much more.

RELATED: While bias against, and rejection of, LGBT people within the religious Jewish community goes back centuries, amazing changes in the attitudes of religious people and their leaders are bringing great optimism to the many religious LGBT people who reject the notion that they must give up their Jewish observance and community ties because of their orientation.

Over the years Havruta members called on the media for more gay politicians, thanked their rabbis who accepted them publicly and told their personal stories to everyone who wanted to hear and brought their partners with them to synagogue

Of course, their most impactful project yet has been Our Faces, where 44 members published their stories and pictures in the media, coming out to their community.

Havruta’s and Bat Kol’s work has caused a “Silent Revolution,” meaning that while the top extremist rabbis call on the public to ignore them- the people around them, in growing masses, slowly begin to understand that being lesbian or gay is no big deal, that they should accept them as part of the community and “let them solve by themselves their complex issues in front of G-d.”